* I am getting back into the game after some ups and downs
Thailand badminton sensation Ratchanok Intanon has a string of firsts in the world of badminton after she won the world title in 2013 in Guangzhou and in the process became the the youngest ever player to win the title at the age of 18 years, six months and six days.
In the final, Ratchanok beat World No 1 and Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China 22-20, 18-21, 21-14 and became the first Thai to win a world title at senior level.
She lost that title last year to Spain’s Carolina Marin – currently Europe’s hottest badminton property when she added the prestigious All-England title to her collection last month when she defeated India’s Saina Nehwal.
However, the 20-year-old Thai has a strong message for her rivals that she has not given on up winning another world title after year of ups and downs in 2013.
Last week, she reached the India Open final but lost to India’s Saina Nehwal 21-6, 21-14.
Ratchanok got off to a winning start to her campaign in the USD500,000 Maybank Malaysia Open at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Wednesday with a 21-19, 17-21, 21-11 win over Japan’s Minatsu Mitani in 76 minutes
A six hour flight delay from New Delhi to Bangkok on Monday forced her to reschedule her flight to Kuala Lumpur which denied her a training session.
“After winning the world title there was a lot of pressure on me and my game was affected. However, I am slowly getting back into stride,” said the 19 year-old who is ranked No 8 in the world. Her best was world No 2 in June last year.
But the current ranking does not speak of her badminton talent – a sport she took up to help her parents come out of poverty. Her badminton journey started in 2009 when she won her first World Junior Badminton title in Alor Star as a 14-year-old – signalling her meteoric rise in the sport.
She retained her title in Guadalajara in Mexico in 2010 and again in Taipeh in 2011. In the process Ratchanok became the first ever player to win the World Junior women’s singles title three times.
In 2010, Ratchanok won the women’s singles silver medal in the Asian Games in Guangzhou and in the 2011 South East Asian (SEA) Games helped Thailand win the team gold in Jakarta apart from winning the bronze in the women’s singles to add to the silver she won in 2009 in Laos.
Ratchanok added another first to her illustrious badminton career when she became the first Thai to win the Thailand Open in 2013 with a 20-22, 21-19, 21-13 win over compatriot Busanan Ongbumrungpan in the final, since the tournament was inaugurated in 1984.
She also became the youngest ever Superseries winner at the age of 18 years, 2 months and 22 days when she beat Germany’s Juliane Schenk in the Yonex India Open 2013 final until Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi won the Japan Open at the age of 16 years six months later.
The same year Ratchanok became the youngest ever player to reach the All-England finals in 2013. She was awarded the International Olympic Committee Sport-Inspiring Young People Trophy by the IOC.
Ratchanok said the players to beat now are Carolina and Nehwal.